Can the French diet help your heart and your waistline?

Can the French diet help your heart and your waistline?
Tonight's dinner: Tomatoes Provencal

A couple of years back I got my family on the plant based food train (fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and the like). I still stand by this, but I've been intrigued lately by French cooking. I'm no stranger to French cheeses and I recently made a French vegetable soup recipe that I defrosted and ate for lunch today. (See, I'm still freezing soups!)

Years ago, I read French Women Don't Get Fat and then on the recommendation of a friend, I read Bringing Up Bebe. Both books describe the way in which the French (and their children) eat. Some of the more interesting ideas in these books are that the French eat butter, bread, wine and desserts and have a much lower incidence of heart disease and obesity than Americans.

How could this be? Well, there are many ideas behind this, some of which you can read about here and here. One of these reasons points to eating fresh foods including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Rich foods are enjoyed, but eaten in regular (not supersized) portion sizes.

I decided to give two recipes from the 2011 IACP cookbook of the year award winner Around My French Table a shot this evening. I first made a simple dish of tomatoes provencal with olive oil and fresh garlic, thyme and basil.

The other recipe I made was a creamy rice. For this recipe, I sauteed garlic and onions in butter (gasp!) which I later added to the rice. I grilled asparagus and I took out the freshly baked French bread and blue cheese that I bought from the grocery store this morning.

I kid you not. Cheese and butter in all its glory.

Here's the catch. I used a pat of butter for the rice and we had a bit of blue cheese on our bread. A pat and a bit. Two words that do not equate jumbo sized.

The recipes were phenomenal. You can't get the amount of flavor packed into those dishes from eating a mountain of processed foods. About ten minutes after I put the tomatoes in the oven, the kids wandered into the kitchen wondering what the "yummy smell" was.

When it came time to eat, I served the tomatoes provencal, rice and asparagus first. Afterward, we had bread with a bit of cheese. For dessert? After that rich food, we were happy sharing a bowl of red grapes.

Would I eat like this every night? Yes, please! Although, I typically serve a protein with dinner so I think I might have to try the recipe for French lentils or chickpea couscous salad next. Of course I'll also have to add a glass of wine next time.

Bon appetit!

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Filed under: food, health

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